Fr Pierbattista Pizzaballa OFM, the Franciscan Custodian of the Holy Land will be in London April 10-13 2008 for an official visit sponsored by the TERRA SANCTA EDUCATION TRUST. This Saturday 12 April, in the crypt of St Etheldreda's Church, Ely Place, Father Pizzaballa will speak to a multi-faith audience about the Franciscan role in supporting the Christian communities of the Holy Land since the Middle Ages. Father Pizzaballa is one of the most highly regarded exponents of religious tolerance and moderation in the Middle East: He said: "Christians, Jews and Muslims share this land and our presence here is a sign of the will of God. We must accept one another and find a way to live together in a climate of peace and mutual respect. As Christians, we have a historical duty not to abandon the home of our Saviour Jesus Christ. The Christian presence seeks to be a source of balance, a sign of tolerance, a concrete invitation to work together and to create a new way of sharing our life in this Holy Land. When peace comes to this tiny corner of the earth, it will bring with it a time of greater peace for the entire world." In his Urbi et Orbi message on Easter Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI once again asked for prayers for the Holy Land. The Holy Land of Jews, Christians and Muslims is a crossroads of people, religions and cultures. The Franciscans have been the "Custodians" of this Holy Land for 8 centuries. Francis of Assisi, the saint of peace, travelled to the Holy Land in 1219 at the height of the crusades and met cordially with Sultan Malik al-Kamil, the nephew of Saladin, thereby commencing a new chapter in Christian relations with the Islam. It is this gesture of love and courtesy toward other faith communities which is at the heart of the work of the Franciscan Order in the Middle East and underpins the ethos of the TERRA SANCTA EDUCATION TRUST's work supporting their local schools in Bethlehem today. The objectives of the TERRA SANCTA EDUCATION TRUST are: The advancement of education and relief of poverty of Christian families living in the Holy Land; The promotion of respect and dialogue between different faith communities. Born in Bergamo, Italy, in 1965, Pierbattista Pizzaballa was ordained to the priesthood in 1990. He has lived in the Holy Land for many years, having studied at the Hebrew University. He is a renowned expert in Old Testament studies and has taught at the Studium Biblicum in Jerusalem.
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